Exploring the Mushroom Caves

September 29th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

The famous limestone caves of Paris were born through the creativity of inhabitants in Loire Valley. Centuries ago, limestone varieties had to be quarried to give space for castles and churches to be built throughout the region. Over time, the abandoned caves were discovered once again by local residents and transformed into mushroom farms.

The caves were also sometimes used as a dwelling, or for storing wine. Although these purposes did serve the residents well, the mushroom farm was the asset that quickly grew to popularity due to its eccentricity.

Before you go eating another one of the famous button mushrooms of Paris, you might be interested to know that mushrooms are cultivated with horse manure. These mushrooms thrive best in of course, the humidity of the limestone caves, but also when placed in a compost combining hay and horse manure.

Inside the limestone caves, over 4000 varieties of mushrooms are grown on metal tables. These metal tables were developed to make delivering the mushrooms more efficient. It’s interesting to note that of these 4000 mushrooms, only roughly 50 of them are edible.

Aside from the well-known button mushrooms, which are simple and plain white, some of the mushrooms in the cave can be fascinatingly beautiful. The colors of some varieties, such as the oyster mushroom, will strike out at you and make you feel as if you are in a bouquet shop rather than a limestone cave.

The oyster mushroom is characterized by its non-traditional mushroom colors, veering off from the hues of brown and white and boasting a vivid array of pink and yellow. The fact that they grow in clumps truly adds to the feeling of being in a flower shop.

The best part about these surprisingly beautiful mushrooms is that they are edible. The next time you go shopping for mushrooms, try seeking out the oyster mushroom.

As you reach the end of your tour in the mushroom caves, the locals of Paris have been thoughtful enough to set up a small café for tourists who have finished exploring the caves. This café serves mushroom soup or raw mushrooms and sauce, so you can get an idea of how the edible mushrooms in the cave tastes like.

If you are someone who enjoys unorthodox adventures, paying these caves a visit will be worth your time. You might also be a couple looking for an unconventional way to spend your honeymoon. If this is the case, plan your own French honeymoon package today and venture into these fascinating mushroom caves in person.


Women Getaways in the City of Romance?

September 22nd, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Paris, which is widely referred to as the ‘city of romance’ due to its naturally romantic atmosphere, isn’t only limited to couples looking for a passionate change in setting. Paris also has its own set of wonders which can accommodate women in particular who are looking to explore the world on their own.

A luxurious journey awaits any woman who eagerly seeks out a travel experience in the solitary enrichment of her own company.  A highly recommended location to begin your personal enrichment is in Loire Valley.

Here you can witness first-hand the exquisite wines of Paris being offered for tasting in the local vineyards. Women can savor the distinct tastes of various wines from France’s second largest producer of sparkling wines.

The first largest producer would be champagne; however Loire Valley does offer some unique blends of its own. The ‘vin gris’, which translates to “grey wine”, is made from an extremely pale rose and black grapes, thus producing a delicate white wine.

Loire Valley also produces other excellent dry white wines, particularly the “Anjou Rose”, “Muscadet”, and “Gros Plant” which are suitable complements with seafood.

Another activity Loire Valley offers is often referred to as a ‘quirky roadside attraction’. Tourists are given the chance to enter limestone caves and see how mushrooms are cultivated. 70% of France’s famous button mushrooms are cultivated in these caves, reaching up to about 200,000 tons a year.

Button mushrooms are also known as “champignons de Paris”, and the process is so captivating that a mushroom museum was set up in dedication to the cultivation.

Although women who indulge in this experience are technically queens, they can also marvel at the regal lifestyle in the Valley of the Kings. This valley is the dwelling to the tombs of great Egyptian pharaohs of the New Kingdom. Several sarcophagi can be found at the Louvre in Paris.

Other than these quirky locations, you can also try going out on a simply shopping spree. Shopping in Paris will delight your inner fashion sense and refresh your shopping experience for when you return home.  Paris is, after all, regarded as the fashion capital of the world, with countless boutiques designed to match your style.

Whatever your aim is when visiting Paris, it has many accommodations for women seeking to enhance their travel experiences. Whether you are traveling alone or with your group of girl best friends, you’ll want to get started immediately in planning your women’s only tour in France.


Are You Ready For Your Honeymoon?

September 14th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Before getting started on providing you the first step in preparing for your honeymoon, let me extend to you a, “Congratulations!” on behalf of this blogging community. Indulging in the many activities and delights that a honeymoon can offer can be one of the most satisfying moments in life with your spouse.

Now that congratulations are in order, the next step for you and your partner is to first ask yourselves the most vital question, “Are we ready for our honeymoon?” Some couples fail to answer this crucial question and proceed to designing extravagant honeymoons without first contemplating what they can and cannot handle.

You must ask yourselves two questions, and prepare answers for them which will ultimately help you and the venues and/or organizers who are to be involved.

The first question to consider is, “What am I willing, or capable, of doing in terms of physical activity?” Often, in the more adventurous types of honeymoons, couples are required to do quite an amount of strenuous activities, such as climbing stairs or hiking.

While signing up for wild and perhaps exotic French honeymoon packages may seem to be the most exciting and grandest time of your life—be careful what you are signing up for. Many times these activities will demand your body to be highly active, and exploring the mountainside may not be as exciting as you once thought, given that you and your partner will be too busy focusing on pushing on.

Make sure both of you are ready to tackle any physical demands before choosing a venue. If you aren’t in for the workout, find a venue more suitable to your relaxation needs.

The second question to consider is, “What kind of experience am I looking to have?” While traveling to countries such as Europe is an admirable venue to aim for, you’ll have to narrow down your expectations further with your partner. There is a vast amount of places to see in Europe, from the most unique locations that are not usually visited, to the most iconic of locations.

If you are not much of a history person, you and your partner may not be so interested to see well-known sightseeing locations. What others might consider as an honor to view, the both of you may only grow bored of standing and staring at old ruins, even if it is in a grand place such as Europe. Alternatively, if you are highly captivated by ancient villages or structures, you can then narrow down your choices to only visiting the most popular sights.


10 Things About Venice, Verona, & Lake Garda

August 25th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Venice, Verona, and the Lake Garda are three of the most beautiful places to visit in the country of Italy. Which distinguished features of each make them so special and a key attraction for tourists?

1. Venice has over 450 palaces.

Also known as a “palazzi”, the palaces of Venice were built with a mixture of classic architectural styles, such as Gothic, Byzantine, Moorish, and Baroque. A unique combination of these styles was termed Venetian Gothic, which combines the Gothic lancet arch with the influences of Byzantine and Moorish architecture.

2. “Juliet’s House” is in Verona.

If you’ve ever seen the film, “Letters to Juliet”, you might have been interested in the structure that was used to place tiny love notes over the walls of the courtyard. This building exists in Verona, although Juliet Capulet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, never actually lived here. Since it was bought by the Cappello family in 1905, its close relation to Juliet’s surname earned it the title of Juliet’s House.

3. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy.

The mesmerizing landscapes of beaches, mountains, natural hot springs, and ancient towns make Lake Garda a popular getaway location.

4. There are over 400 gondoliers in Venice.

Also known as the “City of Romance”, Venice attracts couples to ride their famous gondolas, where it’s said that couples who kiss underneath each bridge will stay in love forever.

5. Verona is home to an ancient Roman amphitheater.

If you’ve ever taken an interest to the ancient Roman amphitheaters, the Verona Arena, which was built in the 1st century, will satisfy your curiosity. It’s famous for hosting large-scale operas.

6. Lake Garda is split between 3 provinces.

50km in length and 20km width, Lake Garda spans the provinces of Verona, Brescia, and Torento.

7. Venice was built over spongy marshland grounds.

When the structures in Venice were first built, wooden pilings were driven into the moist terrain centuries ago for support.

8. 3 of Shakespeare’s plays were set in Verona.

Shakespeare had no doubt great admiration for Verona, since he set 3 of his famous plays in this city, namely Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, and the Two Gentlemen of Verona.

9. Lake Garda has historical value.

The earliest settlement on this beloved lake was said to date back as far back as 2000BC. The Battle of Lake Benacus also took place in these shores, which was fought between the Romans and the Alamnani people.

10. Venice was the birthplace of a famous opera composer.

Antonio Vivaldi was known as one of the greatest Baroque composers, as he was both a classical composer and virtuoso violinist. His musical influence spread across Europe during his lifetime.

Venice, Verona, and Lake Garda are must-see destinations when traveling to Italy. Book a custom Italian vacation with Gateway Destinations to start your Italian cultural journey today.


Make Your Honeymoon as Sweet as Your Teenage Daydreams

August 18th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

The tradition of a honeymoon is formally known as the event immediately after a wedding, meant to give a newly-wed couple a chance to celebrate their marriage in seclusion. However, a honeymoon is considered by many people to be a much more meaningful and sentimental milestone in their lives, as it symbolizes the first few moments of the bond with their partner.
Therefore, it is important to keep these first moments as special as possible in order to bring a positive start to the couples’ shared lives together.

Gathering stray ideas for your dream honeymoon as a teen may have been one of the most fulfilling daydreams, as you probably didn’t yet put into consideration the expenses, or where to get certain amenities. Perhaps you’ve thought of some crazy ideas like climbing Mount Fuji, taking a cruise in the Amazon River, or exploring an African safari.

But as you grew older, got your own job, entered a steady relationship, and approached your actual honeymoon, you began to realize that planning one requires much more than simply brainstorming themes and activities.

You probably worried that your honeymoon wouldn’t be as sweet as you once thought it would be during your teenage daydreams. There are factors to consider, including the availability of a location, hotel accommodations, the length of your honeymoon, and much more.

Your wedding could also play a part in your planning, as the planning necessary for this event may take up most of your time and resources. By the time you’re done picking out the perfect dress/suit, wedding cake, tapestries, and designing the invites, among so many other details, your energy would have been spent and you’re left wondering, “Now, about the honeymoon..”

Now that you have a fixed budget and a more realistic grasp as to what you and your partner will be able to afford, you can now begin searching for options to better suit your needs. If you’re the type who hasn’t got much flair for putting events together and planning every accommodation, you might want to try certain organizations that specialize in creating honeymoon packages.

These companies will work closely with you and your partner, ensuring your goals are met with the most affordable prices. You can specify with them what kind of honeymoon you’d like, and where to have it. The agency will spare you the time and do all the organizing for you.


Italy: A Wellspring of Artistic and Historical Inspiration

August 11th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Whether you are a travel aficionado or someone who is just getting ready to step into the cultural diversity of our world, there is little doubt that you’ve heard of the beauty of Italy. Often listed among the most beautiful countries in the world, it is considered a top destination for any tourist.

If you’re the type to envision a classic, romantic setting with a dimly lit atmosphere as your ideal vacation, you’ll probably want to consider visiting Italy because it will surely satisfy your expectations. The country is overwhelmingly rich in art and history, as it contains the very city where Shakespeare set the famous tragedy of Romeo and Juliet— Verona.

Other than its capability to host romantic getaways, it can also excite history buffs, serve as a wellspring of inspiration for writers or painters, and entertain those who simply want to appreciate various architectural structures, sculptures, literature, and many more historic pieces of art; some of which include ornate, Baroque architecture, masterpieces by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and a Roman amphitheater.

From exploring the home to one of Europe’s oldest universities to the ancient ruins of the Romans, the many cities of Italy will provide you with such an exceptional sight-seeing experience, you’ll feel as if you’ve been teleported into the fifteenth century, during the Renaissance Age.

And if this wasn’t enough to pique your interest, it is also the home to one of the most iconic buildings you’ve seen in photos— the leaning tower of Pisa. It’s spectacular in pictures, but even more so in person.

As you explore the graceful, cobblestoned streets of Italy and, with every passing second, breathe in more of the rich aura of Italy, you may find this aura almost tangible as it seeps into every city and corner, permeating the entire country with its vivid artistic array.

It is no wonder it is considered by many people to be a dream location for their honeymoon, or anything romantic in that matter. When you’re both aiming for a passionate, candle-lit dinner, having one in this picturesque country won’t require much effort on your part, as Italy would act as a naturally tender atmosphere.

However, with all these mentions of different cities and cities to go sightseeing in, it may be difficult to plan your own schedule when you’ve decided to travel there. You’ll find yourself asking, “Which cities are the best options for me to visit? How will I know if I’ve missed anything special that I would have liked to see?”

Luckily, there are numerous agencies designed to provide you with a custom Italian vacation, where travel experts and managers will assist you in planning your perfect trip.


The Nostalgic Charm of Europe’s Christmas Markets

August 1st, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, experiencing a Christmas Market in Europe may bring back childhood meChristmas market4mories like it was yesterday.  From the end of November through Christmas Eve and sometimes through New Year’s Eve, numerous towns in Europe line the streets of their historic centers with wooden structures filled with gifts and food for sale.  Music abounds everywhere in the streets and sipping hot beverages such as mulled spice wine or hot cocoa keeps shoppers warm while they wander the streets looking for just the right gift or memento.   Each town or village offers their unique crafts and foods for sale, but all exude a common atmosphere of festive joy.
Christmas market, EuropeTraveling the beautiful waterways of Europe is one of the best ways to visit several Christmas markets during one season.  Leading river cruise lines such as AmaWaterways, Uniworld, Avalon, Scenic, Tauck, Emerald and Viking offer itineraries that focus on visiting these colorful markets found in the charming villages and bustling towns along the river banks of Europe.  Imagine returning to your cozy stateroom aboard your beautiful “floating hotel” after enjoying a few hours in the crisp winter air after a busy day or night of shopping and merriment.  Then relaxing with a delicious meal and a comfortable night’s sleep before waking up to explore the treasures at the next port.

River cruising in Europe during the Christmas season is an ideal way to unite friends or family members and spend enjoyable quality time together.


Should Travel to Greece be Postponed or Avoided?

July 15th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Although the Greek government has restricted access to cash and credit cards for local citizens, foreign funds are still currently available to international travelers through ATM machines and banks.  It is advisable to carry extra cash and several forms of payment, however, in case bank and ATM accessibility also becomes difficult for travelers.  Strikes affecting local transportation and flights could increase in protest to tighter governmental controls to reduce costs.  Allowing a little extra time for traveling (such as ferry connections) is a good idea until the dust settles.  All the reasons to visit Greece are unchanged – beautiful scenery and pristine beaches, azure seas, friendly people, good food, amazing history and outstanding architecture.


Ever Stress Over Luggage When Traveling Abroad?

June 15th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Have you ever wondered if there is an easier way to deal with your luggage while traveling abroad?  Or had the unhappy experience of delayed or lost luggage by an airline?  You can certainly consider shipping your luggage to your destinations using shipping services like FedEx or DHL, but innovative companies such as Luggage Forward (and others) offer personalized shipping service from your home to your destination.  This service comes with a price but may offset the worry of it being delayed or lost, and the stress of handling your own luggage through train stations and in and out of hotels before or after a cruise, for example.

Their services typically include tracking where your bag is at all times until it reaches its destination, re-routing it if your itinerary changes, and guaranteeing an on-time delivery, and in good condition.  Call us for details to see if this may be a good choice for your next vacation.


Have You Checked Your Passport Expiration Date?

May 15th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments
passport expiration, international travel

A quick check of your passport may save you a lot of time and stress when getting ready to leave for your next trip abroad. Many countries now require that the passport expiration date be valid for at least six months beyond your return travel date so make sure yours is ready to go.